My Summer School Experience at Wageningen University and Research
By Jenny Olatunji Editing by Chhavi Kaushik
It was a cold, dark and dreary evening in late November when I was mindlessly scrolling through Google and came across an infographic for the ‘Global Food Summer School’ at Wageningen University & Research.
Summer school is essentially a series of lectures that take place during the summer period as part of a degree or for personal purposes (I applied for the latter reason). I took a quick glance at the programme and a few buzz words jumped out at me such as “developing a food product”, “excursions to Mars and Heineken” and “sustainability”.
Prior to this moment I had not heard of Wageningen University and Research. Shortly after a quick Google search I found out that their Food Science programme is generally ranked as one of the 2-3 programmes in Europe and in the top 5 in the world. They also offer specialisations such as Gastronomy which combines molecular food science with social sciences and culinary science.
Summer school is essentially a series of lectures that take place during the summer period as part of a degree or for personal purposes.
The diversity of the university is what initially caught my attention, attracting students from all over the globe. The application process for the summer school was relatively straight forward, I had to answer a few questions about myself and submit a personal statement. Fast-forward to March of 2018 and I received my acceptance e-mail. Around a month after I completed my 2nd year of my BSc Food Science degree from University College Dublin I began packing my bags for summer school.
Chatting with the other participants (I am the first from the left on the picture)
Expectations versus Reality
Preceding my arrival, I had several expectations in relation to the University such as:
- A green campus – I expected the University to be located outside the city centre surrounded by windmills and farm animals. The reality was that it was just outside Wageningen town centre however, I did not notice any windmills nor farm animals nearby.
Campus of Wageningen University & Research
- A quiet campus – At my home university (University College Dublin) all undergraduate students finish the school year in May. I expected to see a few postgraduate students looming about Wageningen but I quickly learned that majority of the students finished their term exams in the first week of July.
- Dutch Professors and Dutch students – I knew that Wageningen University and Research was the most international University in The Netherlands but I did not expect to find more than 103 nationalities. I did not have the opportunity to interact with many of the Dutch on the programme, but I did meet people from every continent except Antarctica and Australia.
The unique aspect of the Global Food Summer School was the specialised classes. We had engaging lectures ranging from 3D Food Printing, Halal Regulations to Consumer Behaviour. We experienced dynamic workshops from developing a sustainable food product with Unilever to making a windmill from recycled materials in Fablab Wageningen. Fablab is a global network of local labs that enable invention by providing access for individuals to use tools for digital fabrication.
We experienced dynamic workshops from developing a sustainable food product with Unilever to making a windmill from recycled materials in Fablab Wageningen.
The Professors and Industry experts were friendly and approachable, often times we would see them at the local supermarkets or chat with them during lunch. There was no “hierarchy” throughout the week long programme, myself and the other 32 students all had one goal which was to make the most out of the Global Food Summer School. Not only were the classes intriguing but they were relevant and were in line with current food trends.
Mars and Heineken
The highlight of my week was definitely the company visits to Mars and Heineken. Mars Veghel is the largest chocolate bar factory in the world. We were given a tour around the factory floor and we saw the process of making Snickers, Twix and Maltesers. We put our Research and Development skills to the test by developing a new chocolate bar flavour for the Snickers/ Twix brand. We also attended talks from senior members of staff working in Research and Development.
Later on that day we went to the Heineken factory, Europe’s largest brewery. We learned about the fine art of brewing and went on a tour around the factory. There was also an open bar and we were able to try new drinks from different Heineken brands such as the “Desperado Flare” with gold glitter. The excursions really provided a great insight into life in the Food and Beverage Industry.
Excursion to Heineken factory
New Product Development
Aside from attending the classes, workshops and company visits we were also developing a food product throughout the week. On the first day we were subdivided into smaller groups depending on our backgrounds/ skills. We took a pre-seed idea on Monday and made it a reality on the Friday. We developed a chickpea beverage. Our product name is called “Chanta Thanda” which comes from the word “Chana thanda” meaning chickpea drink. Our slogan is “Drink it cold, taste the gold”. Developing a new product proved to be challenging but exciting because I was working with people who were positive and like-minded.
Working in groups for product development
After classes ended we typically ate dinner on campus and then went for a walk or cycle around Wageningen town and played games in the park. The days were long, but they were filled with enthusiasm and passion. Despite the programme being only 5 days long, I felt like I have known the participants for a lifetime and I am looking forward to the Global Food Summer School 2018 reunion. A few students and myself decided to travel around The Netherlands for a few days after the programme ended which was great!
The next edition is a Global Food Winter School and it takes place during the 4th-8th of February 2019. I would highly recommend this programme for students from a Food Science, Food Technology, Food Business or Engineering discipline from anywhere in the world.
The whole group with our certificates
If you want to be updated about when the application opens for the Global Food Winter School, you can register yourself here for the newsletter of Wageningen University & Research.